Last week the world's most famous amateur golfer brought lasting fame to every one of the 6,466 yards of the unfamous Turnberry Golf Course in the Clyde valley of Scotland by stepping onto it in a pair of black-and-white saddle spikes and negotiating its 18 holes in 18 strokes over par.
"He's not a bad player. He's a' right," said Ike Eisenhower's venerable Scottish caddie afterward.
It was a laconic but well-earned accolade for a stranger to the Turnberry course who had put in a busy fortnight of traveling before getting his spikes on. He had paid working visits to West Germany's Konrad Adenauer, Britain's Harold Macmillan and France's Charles de Gaulle, and had set course records in public acclaim in Bonn, London and Paris. Now, like any Labor Day weekender, he was enjoying some deserved time off. The scene was the rolling, treeless linkside course near Castle Culzean on the western Clyde, where Ike, in token of World War II missions accomplished, has a perpetual castle apartment waiting whenever he cares to occupy it.
Ike was eager for golf as the plane brought him from France to his Scottish fief. "I don't care if I take 108," he admitted to White House Press Secretary Jim Hagerty. Scottish watchers were eager, too. They crowded the edges of the fairway as the President stepped to the first tee. "They've sure got confidence in me," Ike said. He hit a couple of practice shots, and then settled himself for his drive. Down the fairway it went for more than 200 yards. "Quite nice," went the spontaneous but still noncommittal verdict of the crowd.
September 13, 1959
The crowd was learning about its golfer, and the golfer was learning about his course. At Turnberry par is 71. It is a typical heathside Scots course. It is not one of the greats, but it is sporty and wild. It is relatively flat but somewhat humpy. The fairways last weekend were hard and slick; Turnberry has never heard about artificial watering systems. The traps are not too gruesome, but the course is full of tricky doglegs, and it has what the President might diplomatically call a very ungroomed rough.
The visitor's golf was a very fair response to the course. Strong from tee to green, Ike followed his 240-yard drive with an easy iron that put him on the 346-yard first green in 2. But three putts cost him his par. At this point, by arrangement, democratic but hospitable Scotland stretched ropes across Turnberry to allow Ike to pursue the rest of the course in the privacy of his foursome, which included Club Pro Ian March-bank, Culzean Factor James Gray and Brigadier Sir James Gault, a British member of Ike's wartime staff.
The card below shows Ike's response to the holes that followed. By Turnberry tradition, every hole has a nickname, ranging from the dolorous warning of "Woe-be-tide" to the challenge of "Fin me oot" to the simple instruction—on the 470-yard 17th—of "Lang Whang." Ike went through the first four in 5 over par. But after "Woe-be-tide" No. 4 he turned on a streak that would have saved many a professional a tournament win. He parred the long fifth ("Fin me oot"), bogied the sixth and then nearly eagled the 448-yard 5-par seventh, getting an easy birdie. A bogey and final par gave him a 42 for the first nine.
The strain of a day which started with a Paris dawn began to tell a little on the President, who took to using the golf cart brought especially to the course for him more on the second nine. He was taking more strokes, too. Reaching the 428-yard 18th he was par in for a 45. But a skulled tee shot, a recovery wood and a mis-hit iron left him in a trap. Determined to save his good round, Ike dug in, lofted a soft pitch to the front of the green and got down in 2.
For a man who hadn't played golf since the Saturday before he left the U.S., when he managed to get in eight holes at Gettysburg, the 89 over Turnberry's unfamiliar layout was an honest triumph. But he was not through. Just before leaving Paris for Scotland on Friday morning, the President of the United States had sent off a sporting challenge to a pair of Stateside golfing cronies, Coca-Cola Director William E. Robinson and Cities Service's Alton (Pete) Jones. It was 3 a.m. E.D.T. when Robinson and Jones got the message, but they had time to signal back, before taking off for Scotland, "We'll be over." So on Saturday Ike was back on Turn-berry again with Robinson, Jones and U.S. Ambassador Jock Whitney.
No scorecards were posted for Saturday, though Castle Culzean sources, wearing weekend smiles of their own, announced that the boss had turned Turnberry in the 80s again.
No Labor Day weekend golfer could have asked for more.
FINE ROUND FOR A PRESIDENT
The scorecard at the right, proudly posted by the President after his first round last week over an unfamiliar Scottish course, is one of the rarest private documents of the Eisenhower presidency: in the U.S. his scores are rarely revealed, his scorecards never.
The blank card with which the President began his round gave him clues. No. 2 ("Mak Siccar") told him to make sure, be careful. No. 7 ("Roon the Ben") was a dogleg tip. No. 10 ("Dinna Fouter") amounted to "Don't falter, swing away." No. 15 ("Ca Canny") signaled take it easy. No. 17—"Lang Whang"—was Scots for bust it, brother! Ailsa Hame? Back home to Culzean Castle, seat of the marquesses of Ailsa.